You know how hard it was to give up gluten-laden items like bread, those buttery-divine croissants, pizza and pasta. You’ve managed to purge gluten from your diet and embark on the road to recovery. What an accomplishment! Let’s call it: Phase 1. If there were no more gluten in the world, our work would be nearing completion.
But how does someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity manage to share a kitchen with cheerful gluten eaters? How do you keep yourself safe in the one place that should be your haven, your own home?
If you can’t clear all gluten from your home, you’re potentially exposed to gluten with every bite you take, from shared peanut butter jars to those mysterious bits in the microwave, to cracker crumbs everywhere. Gluten-free veterans can all share stories when they discovered contamination sources in the unlikeliest of places.
Studies show that even 10 mg of gluten per day (less than a few crumbs!) can cause problems for those with celiac disease. So…preventing cross-contact is critical!
Fortunately, maintaining a safer kitchen is a realistic goal, and those who’ve gone before you have many tips to share for peaceful cohabitation with your gluten-loving room-mates or loved ones! As a registered dietitian diagnosed with celiac disease who also counsels people following a gluten-free diet…here are some of my tips to prevent cross-contact:
12 Tips for Avoiding Gluten Cross-Contact in the Kitchen
- Store all gluten-free products in labeled containers. Use a sharpie pen or place brightly colored-stickers on everything that must remain “GLUTEN FREE.”
- Keep all gluten-free foods in their own area of the pantry, on shelves above those containing gluten. This keeps dust and crumbs from raining down on your formerly safe products.
- Squeezable condiments such as mayo, relish and mustard are the best thing since sliced (GF) bread! For dips and spreads in jars, always pull out a portion into a clean, labeled jar for yourself as you unpack your groceries. Or buy 2 containers of items (e.g., peanut butter) and label one “GLUTEN FREE.” Store the GF labeled containers with your other GF goodies.
- It may seem obvious, but this can be overlooked when you’re in a hurry: Always make sure you wipe a clean counterspace before preparing any of your own foods.
- While you’re at it, throw the wash rag in the laundry when you’re done. Invest in a large supply of cleaning cloths, because you never want to wash your pan or counter with a rag full of snickerdoodle crumbs.
- Have a separate cupboard or drawer with a designated set of tools such as spatulas, wooden spoons, cutting boards, cookie sheets, etc.
- Invest in a dedicated gluten-free toaster. If not, you can share a toaster oven if you pull out the rack and clean it between uses. Another option is to buy special “toaster bags” that hold slices of gluten-free bread and allow safe toasting in a regular toaster. These reusable bags can be purchased online or in some retail stores.
- Please don’t even think about sharing a bread machine, food processor, waffle iron, sifter or colander. These range from challenging to impossible to clean well enough.
- Clean your microwave between uses and cover your food with a paper towel. Who knows what all those bits are?
- Clean your BBQ grill thoroughly before cooking any GF foods or, if that’s not possible, cook your food on heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- If you are having a party with mixed foods, place the gluten-free foods first in line with their own serving spoons. Let the gluten-free folks serve themselves first in case spoons get mixed or blobs go flying about.
- Finally, if you bake, bake gluten-free foods on separate days to minimize exposure in the air and on surfaces. If you bake on the same day, do the gluten-free foods first, let them cool, and store them safely before moving on to the standard items.
Always take the time to educate and enlist the help of your family, roommates and friends. They love you and want to see you thrive. Even the messiest partners and children will learn to wipe their crumbs and spills, avoid double-dipping, and ask you when they’re not sure. They will definitely eat your gluten-free pretzels, though: they’re delicious.